Spain's new socialist government is continuing to make progress with the Algeciras-Bobadilla railway project which it inherited from its predecessor, the Partido Popular. Earlier this week in Cadiz the new Minister of Public Works, José Luis Ábalos, announced that the contract for the first phase of the Almoraima-San Pablo stretch of line is to be put to tender in the near future. The works will cost nearly 15.4 million euros and will take approximately 12 months to complete, he said.
This part of the project will replace the line and the infrastructure over 26.7 kilometres, between points 129.4 and 156.1. The sidings in the stations will also be renewed, apart from Jimena de la Frontera, which will be included in phase 2.
The bridges will also be surveyed to ensure that they are high enough to allow electrification to be carried out in the future. During this first phase the drainage system will also be renewed, as will the signals and communications to guarantee continuity of the service while the works are under way.
This part of the project does not include the electrification, as that will be done separately. The works are being financed by the European Regional Development Fund (Feder 2014-2020) for sustainable transport. The minister, who visited Algeciras on Wednesday, pointed out that the start of this phase is the result of the new government's decision not to stop any projects which had already been scheduled, and to advance them.
The president of the Business Confederation of Cadiz (CEC), Javier Sánchez Rojas, welcomed the announcement, saying it was "an important step" in the overall modernisation of the connection with the two railway corridors of the Transeuropean Network, the Mediterranean and the Central.
However, he also warned that the objective set by the EU for its completion, 2020, "is very close and a great deal of additional effort needs to be made to comply with deadlines which businesses in Cadiz province do not want to be missed".
Sánchez Rojas recalled that businesses in the Campo de Gibraltar area had already called for action back in April with the 'Quiero corredor' campaign, demanding an infrastructure which will enable them to compete under equal conditions with the rest of Europe.
The project so far
This is one step further in the project to renew the stretch of line between Algeciras and Bobadilla, but there is still much more to be done. The phase which has been delayed longest and is most controversial is the one between Antequera and Ronda. The previous Ministry of Public Works team ruled out the high-speed stretch of line which had been proposed by previous socialist governments. Although there has been no new information about this stretch, it looks as if it will be the same as the rest: the single track which exists at present will be renewed and a third one which can be used by trains with international and conventional gauges will be added. They will then be electrified. All this has been in the environmental impact phase since the end of 2010, which has meant that no works could be carried out.
Finally, unless something unexpected happens, the contract put to tender for the stretch between Bobadilla and Ronda (69 kilometres) will only be for designing the electrification and signalling, which will take eight months. The plans to improve the platform are still being drawn up.
This is very different from the situation in 2011 and 2012, when the idea was to build a high-speed AVE line between the two towns, with a double UIC-gauge track running the 64.4 kilometres between Antequera's Santa Ana station and La Indiana on the outskirts of Ronda, where a new station was due to be built. That project had a budget of 711.47 million euros. The parliamentary Public Works committee recently agreed that the government should be urged to resume the works in this area, as they are vital to improve the communications with Ronda.
With regard to what has been done so far, the only phase to have been completed is Ronda-Cortes de la Frontera-San Pablo (carried out between 2009 and 2011). The contract for the 26-kilometre stretch between San Pablo and Almoraima will be put to tender shortly.
Last June the railway administration company ADIF authorised the works between Almoraima and Algeciras to be continued, after agreeing that the two contracts for this 20-kilometre stretch could be modified. This includes the San Roque cargo logistics area, which should be completed this year.
In October last year the contract was awarded for the sidings at Castellar de la Frontera station, so that it can cope with cargo trains up to 750 metres long. The new CTC traffic control system is also being installed at present, and will soon be operational over 106 kilometres.